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CPJ Press Freedom Awardee: 'I always wanted answers'

Left to right: Nadira Isayeva, Dawit Kebede, and Laureano Márquez in Washington. (CPJ/Rodney Lamkey Jr.)

The last few weeks have been extremely busy for everyone at CPJ as we've been preparing for the 2010 International Press Freedom Awards. Today's press conference in Washington will be followed by a series of events culminating in our awards ceremony Tuesday in New York. As always, the awardees make it special. 

After they arrived last night in Washington, we went to dinner at a Thai restaurant and got to know each other a little better. Laureano Márquez, from Venezuela, told me he has 200,000 Twitter followers (actually, 200,001 since I'm now following him). Dawit Kebede, from Ethiopia, told us about a great discussion he had yesterday when he visited with journalism students at Howard University. He feels right at home in D.C. and makes new friends on every corner. Washington has a huge immigrant Ethiopian population.

We had some tense moments Wednesday afternoon when Nadira Isayeva, who flew from Dagestan in Russia's North Caucasus, was delayed for several hours clearing U.S. immigration. It turns out officials became suspicious when she told them she was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria, one of New York's swankiest hotels. For the record, Nadira will not be staying there, but it is the venue for our awards ceremony next Tuesday evening. We are expecting about 900 of our closest friends. Mohammad Davari, our fourth awardee, will not make it; he remains imprisoned in Iran.

At the press conference this morning, Nadira spoke about how Russian law essentially classifies criticism of police and security forces as "extremism. " This effectively criminalizes the kind of journalism her newspaper, Chernovik, does every day. Nadira herself is under investigation and faces an eight-year prison sentence if convicted.

Meanwhile, Laureano, who is a satirist and columnist for the Caracas daily Tal Cual, talked about the role of humor in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela. "I believe humor is one of the most effective resources for a society to confront authoritarianism and injustice because humor promotes tolerance," he said.

I was struck by a simple phrase from Dawit, who was jailed for 21 months in Ethiopia because of his reporting on the disputed 2005 presidential elections. He said he'd always wanted to be a journalist and that the habit of asking insistent questions began as a child. His father quickly learned that Dawit could not be brushed off easily. "I always wanted answers," Dawit said.

That is true for all of our award winners: They will continue to ask questions--and demand answers--even when it puts their lives and liberty at risk. That is why we are honoring them, and that is what makes all them such remarkable and inspiring people.

Please contact CPJ Advocacy and Communications Associate Magnus Ag at mag@cpj.org or 212-465-1004 x128 to obtain images of the awardees for media use.

November 18, 2010 5:55 PM ET | | Comments (2)

Comments

Thanks CPJ,

For honoring the giants amongst us who often get roughed up for telling the truth to power. I am a big fan of Dawit and have read his paper for years now. His paper has always been balanced and full of information in an otherwise information controlled society.

He deserves every bit of it and I salute him for his accolade and you for recognizing his work.

Way to go CPJ!!

Samrawit.

After reading about the three awarded journalists, I feel admiration for the Russian and her work, undoubtfully for the Iranian, just to mention the country and the word oppositor beside a name, it means automatically rejection by the Iranian government and in most of the cases, being jailed and his family harrased and creating inwanted problems for them, what else can I wish for them? good luck and the recomendation for "non dismay in your task".
In the case of Mr. Laureano Marques, I must say that I read daily, the Latin and media from Spain, but with emphasis in Venezuela, I go from the extreme left, aporrea.org, El Nacional (where Mr. Marques have the older politic satirist of Venezuela, ZAPATA, whom never being jailed for his work, at least the last thirty years that I remember). I never heard or watch any remarcable work of him, my surprise today when reading El Carabobeno, from Valencia, Venezuela and learned about the award for his brave work. Gentlemen of CPJ, you tarnish the name of the CPJ and the other two awarded persons, the one from Russia and the one from Iran. You don't make any work for the freedom or for anything in relation to Venezuela.
Hector J Meza DVM
129 Glastonbury, CT 06033
USA.


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